Blogging for the Page Views — Tags, snazzy headings, Hurricane Sandy, and the United States Postal Service

One of the many postings that I am working on finalizing is related to blogging and what the purpose of blogging is.

The nexus of the first draft of this posting was a statement by my friend Michael Schutterop on his, now defunct, blog White Stone Shaping, that blogging is about giving:

“Blogging is about giving more than we ask for.”

Before you ask, I don’t know what white stone shaping means. Michael is interested in business and what I would characterize as Christian living, so perhaps there is some relationship to these fields. Sure sounds good, though

Although I like the sentiment expressed by Michael, I think that it is far from the case that blogging is some sort of altruistic exercise, and, in fact, I think that the most active and successful bloggers (by whatever metrics you want to apply) have entirely selfish motives for blogging. This fact is something that interests me a lot and drives a lot of my experimental activity with this blog.

I have not completely shaped my thinking on blogging — yet, but I think that it really is a highly competitive and rather brutal full-contact sport. Kathie Hafner put the head on the nail when she, in an article in the New York Times’ technology section wrote that:

“… never have so many people written so much to be read by so few.”

Recently I had posted an ad on Craig’s List seeking help with SEO. I was looking for some out-of-the-box advice about how to drive page views (i.e. advice that I could not find on the first couple of page of results from a Google search on page views, read in one of the For-Dummies books, or figure out using common sense.) Sadly, although I got many responses, I found nobody who could help.

One interesting thing, however, did come out of Craig’s List responses. Pretty much every single respondents suggested extensive use of tags to increase search engine hit, which, of course, is nothing new. However, although there was nothing new in the notion of applying tags, it did make me think… If it is indeed so that tags drive content, why not just reverse-engineer the tags that drive the traffic?

Of to the races we go. About a week ago I identified the two top trending search terms (“Ipad Mini” and “Hurricane Sandy”,) and mindlessly applied these terms as tags to my ten latest blog postings. Then I sat back and waited.

Nothing happened. I had a few referrals from Google, but nothing that moved the needle.

The hurricane came closer to the United States and the controversy around Ipad Mini and Apple mounted, but, still, nothing happened.

Then yesterday, as Hurricane Sandy passed by and partly through suburban Maryland, I noted through empirical observation that the mail carrier still delivered mail (I looked out the window,) something that I found to be remarkable and impressive and that prompted me to finish a posting that I have had in the works for a long time, discussing FedEx’s parasitic relationship with the United States Postal Service.

The prologue to yesterday’s posting was the same observation as you see in this posting, i.e. a statement that I was impressed with the mail man’s and the postal service’s diligence. Once I had completed the article, I added tags based on the content, including — and I swear this was a completely random occurrence, not in any way related to the, now one week old, experiment in trending-terms based tagging — the tag “United States Postal Service” and “Hurricane Sandy,” and then I gave the posting a snazzy title, “Tracking Hurricane Sandy — The United States Postal Service rules and FedEx is a bloodsucking vampire”

And, then, something remarkable happened.

The number of page views went through the roof. Page views were up 200% above the average yesterday, and, today, are on track to exceed this number.

But that is not the end of the story. The number of referrals from Google was negligible, whereas the number of referrals from Bing (normally so small that it would be considered statistically insignificant by even a first year actuary)had exploded. Moreover, another long-overdue posting that I also finally finished last night attracted near zero page views. Go figure….

On a sidenote, it is interesting how adverse weather drives up productivity… Perhaps placing a business in Vostok or on the South Pole is not such a bad idea. Or perhaps one should place the business on Mount Washington in the New Hampshire, 6288 ft above sea level and at the intersection of the major weather patterns in the northeastern United States, where bitter cold, high winds, rapidly changing weather conditions are the norm and the world record for surface winds, 231 miles per hour — take that Formula One — was recorded in 1932. But I digress… Back to blogging.

Analyzing the data, the general search terms that drove (Bing-wielding) internet users to my posting was a question as to whether or not the postal service would be operating.

I find this interesting in many ways. First, because my page view count went up as an accident; not by design; second, because it shows that the United States Postal Service really does matter to the citizens of the United States; and, third, because it implies that trending-terms based tagging alone does not drive traffic, but, rather, trending-terms based tagging combined with snazzy (and tag-related) headings — at exactly the right time — do drive traffic.

I am speculating that the Bing vs. Google issue comes down to technical proficiency. Frankly, the only people who I know who use Bing are people with low technical aptitude, and, so, I extrapolate that the visitors to my high-traffic posting were, crudely put, non-techies. Conversely, I believe that Gookind has high technical aptitude (if you don’t know what Gookind is, read this posting.)

This extrapolation leads me two possible, related conclusions, namely that techies either don’t care about the United States Postal Service and/or techies know how to access information about the postal service’s disposition on hurricanes and storms without going through non-Bing search engines. If the first conclusion is proven right, it would, of course, have profound implications on the postal service.

From a blogger’s perspective this is very interesting in that it shows that you can indeed drive traffic to your site. The issue, of course, is that I suspect that none of the horde of guests actually read my blog postings, which bothers me. However, for the blogs that are ad driven this fact may not matter.

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